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Baton Rouge: A Cultural Capital

Baton Rouge at a Glance

Location: Southeast Louisiana

Access: Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport; interstates 10 and 12

Hotel rooms: 1,500

Contact Info:

Visit Baton Rouge


Raising Cane’s River Center

Built: 1977; $18 million theater renovation completed in 2022

Exhibit Space: 70,000 square feet

Other Meeting Spaces: 225,000 square feet, including 21 meeting rooms

Meeting Hotels

Crowne Plaza Executive Center

Guest rooms: 294 rooms

Meeting Space: 30,000 square feet

Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center

Guest rooms: 291 rooms

Meeting Space: 20,000 square feet

L’Auberge Casino Hotel

Guest rooms: 205 rooms

Meeting Space: Nearly 13,000 square feet with performance platform

Who’s Meeting in Baton Rouge

Gulf Coast Food and Fuel Expo

Attendees: 1,500

Prince Hall Grand Lodge Masons and Esther Grand Chapter

Attendees: 1,100

Herb Society of America

Attendees: 200

Few cities exude more Southern hospitality than Baton Rouge.

Louisiana’s capital has been nestled along the Mississippi River for more than 300 years. It’s a city where Cajun and Creole cultures intermingle and the outdoors can be enjoyed year-round because winters are normally mild and short-lived. Being the home to both Louisiana State University and Southern University, gives Baton Rouge a lively air.

Destination Highlights

Known as a cultural melting pot, Baton Rouge — translated “red stick” in French — was named in 1699 by French explorer Pierre Le Moyne Sieur d’Iberville for the “red stick” that stood on a Mississippi River bluff. Legend has it that two indigenous tribes settled a border conflict by marking their hunting grounds with a cypress pole. The original pole was at Scott’s Bluff on what is now the campus of Southern University, the nation’s largest historically black university. The “Red Stick” sculpture on campus commemorates this history.

A vibrant food and arts scene offers a multiplicity of options. Crawfish etouffee, shrimp po’boys, gumbo and other Southern specialties are considered local delicacies. Baton Rouge is the birthplace of swamp blues, born in the 1950s and influenced by Zydeco and Cajun music. The  annual Baton Rouge Blues Festival in April celebrates the musical genre.

“We’re known for warm and welcoming hospitality, and our city is a great place to experience Louisiana’s unique culture,” said Laura Cating, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Baton Rouge. “Our restaurant scene reflects that melting pot of cultures from around the world including Asia, Africa, Spain and France.”

The city’s museums and gardens cater to varied interests. Louisiana’s Old State Capitol was built in 1850, and its Gothic architecture and stained-glass ceiling reflect that era. It has a new purpose now, as a museum showcasing the state’s political history. The current capitol, the nation’s the tallest at 450 feet, has a 27th-floor observation deck with a 360-degree view of the Mississippi River, Baton Rouge and beyond.

Distinctive Venues

The Louisiana Art and Science Museum hosts receptions or private dinners “under the stars” inside its Pennington Planetarium. The Capitol Park Museum exhibits state history from Mardi Gras to Civil Rights to New Orleans jazz, with nearly 500,000 artifacts in its collection. A reception for up 500 can seamlessly flow from outdoors to indoors; seated dinners for 200 to 300 can be held on the Plaza lawn around a reflecting pool or in the Reception Room. The lobby accommodates a 350-person reception.

The LSU Rural Life Museum preserves 18th- and 19th-century culture in 32 historic outbuildings on 25 acres. There are representations of  a working plantation, Louisiana’s upland south region and the Gulf Coast. For groups of up to 140, the adjacent LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens contains three miles of wooded paths and specialized gardens.

“Recently, we hosted ‘Antiques Roadshow’ at the museum for about 2,000 people under the shade trees and throughout the buildings,” said Cating.

Located 20 minutes from downtown and modeled after homes of Louisiana’s River Road,  White Oak Estate and Gardens welcomes guests with an oak-lined drive and a columned front porch. Inside, they are greeted by a grand staircase, crystal chandeliers, a French ballroom and opulent rooms. Breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets are created by chef John Folse, and gourmet crawfish boils or picnics are held on the lawn. Events in a large, outdoor pavilion can gather around a Spanish-style fountain and three open-hearth fireplaces.

Major Meeting Spaces

Baton Rouge’s most comprehensive venue is Raising Cane’s River Center. The  225,000-square-foot convention center includes a 70,000-square-foot exhibition hall, a 26,336-square-foot ballroom and 18,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. There’s also a 2,000-seat theater and 30,000-square-foot arena with retractable seating. An in-house caterer runs concessions and creates custom menus for meetings and events, including the option for a Louisiana-style meals.

“Our convention center is located right next to the Old State Capitol, and it’s a beautiful juxtaposition between modern and historic Baton Rouge,” said Cating.

Located near both universities and the capitol, the 294-room Crowne Plaza Executive Center features 30,000 square feet of meeting space, including a boardroom. Receptions accommodate up to 1,500 guests, and in-house catering is available. The elegant 291-room Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center, built in 1927 and a member of Historic Hotels of America, sits on the Mississippi River and has nearly 20,000 square feet of meeting and event space. “The Tunnel,” in the hotel’s basement, has been converted into a sophisticated event space. Legend has it that former governor Huey Long conducted underhanded dealings there in the 1930s. The 205-room L’Auberge Casino Hotel provides nearly 13,000 square feet of flexible space in its event center, which is outfitted with 1,000-square-foot performance platform, state-of-the-art light and sound and a pre-function area with two bars. In addition to gaming, the hotel offers live entertainment, in-room massage and a rooftop pool with rentable cabanas.

After the Meeting

Baton Rouge festive spirit is evident year round. Spring brings Crawfete, with all things crawfish accompanied by live music. The Baton Rouge Soul Food Festival’s cooking competition produces mouthwatering dishes, accompanied by local and national musicians. The city’s Mardi Gras celebration is not to be missed, with parades that include floats, marching bands and dancing.

On Thursday evenings in the spring and fall, local bands “Rock the Rowe” for hours of music and dancing entertainment at urban mall Perkins Rowe. “Live After Five” sponsors free concerts in downtown’s North Boulevard Town Square on Friday evenings. And, for family friendly, live music featuring local bands, there’s “Sunday in the Park” at the Shaw Center for the Arts Plaza.

“Electric Depot is in a repurposed building and offers a unique event venue for social bowling and food,” said Cating. “It highlights the local scene and connects attendees to the best of the city.”

Golfers can hit the links at one of Baton Rouge’s 30 golf courses. Santa Maria Golf Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., stretches across 150 acres refreshed by 15 lakes and two natural waterways. It is part of the Audubon Golf Trail. At LSU Lakes, water-lovers can rent a canoe or paddleboard. And the Mississippi River Levee’s paved four-mile path starts in downtown and ends at LSU. There are always sports for spectators at at LSU and Southern University, both in NCAA Division I. According to Cating, Southern University’s “Human Jukebox” perform at football games, and they’re an unparalleled crowd pleaser.